(Post Falls, Idaho February 7, 2017)
A talented and promising violinist, on her way to a high school jazz band competition, was tragically killed Tuesday morning at about 6:00 A.M., MST. The car she was riding in and which was driven by a fellow 17-year-old musician was struck by a westbound Union Pacific freight train at the dangerous and unguarded North Spokane Street crossing of Union Pacific Railroad tracks in Post Falls, ID.
Mikelli Villasenor, a Post Falls HS sophomore, was killed while the driver of the northbound 1998 Chevrolet Malibu, Jacob Brockus, was rushed to Kootenai Health Hospital in Coeur dAlene, ID. Jacob Brockus was admitted in serious condition from his crash-incurred injuries.
The railroad crossing has been the site of an earlier fatality and four other injuries. Despite this long history of collisions, the crossing was not equipped with any active warning devices. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with signals, such as lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Both Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
According to Federal Railroad Administration records, the crossing accommodates a daily average of nine trains at a maximum allowable speed of 49 mph and has now been the site of seven collisions between trains and motor vehicles, the most recent before Tuesdays occurring July 7, 2016.
Even more tragic was the fact that the Idaho DOT had designated the crossing for installation of flashing lights and crossing gates sometime later this year.
Residents living near the UPRR/Spokane Street crossing were highly critical of the danger of the crossing, where UP tracks cross at an angle. Page Goins, who lives near the crossing, told Spokane TV Station News Reporter Drew Reeves that Its a very dangerous track (crossing). They definitely need some arms (crossing gates) on this track. Its just a dangerous area.
Sue Harpine, who also lives near the crossing, was in full agreement. She told News Writer Jonathan Glover of the Spokane Spokesman-Review that she had repeatedly called Union Pacific, begging them to install a gate or lights to warn people about the unsafe crossing.
Describing the hill on the street that precedes the crossing as a blind hill, she told the Spokesman-Review writer that Theres just a whole lot of things (about the safety of the crossing) that need to be changed.